Rory McIlroy preparing for first match since coronavirus shutdown, ready to play without fans

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Rory McIlroy, the No. 1 golfer in the world, is teaming up with Dustin Johnson to take on Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff later this month in the TaylorMade Driving Relief, which will benefit coronavirus relief efforts.

McIlroy told Fox News contributor Jim Gray in a recent interview that he believes the long layoff may have more an effect on his short-range golf game than his ability to hit the fairways. He said he started to practice for his match last week – the first time he’s picked up a club in about seven weeks.

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“I think you always anticipate that there’s going to be rust attached to when you come back. I took six weeks off over Christmas and New Year’s – December and the early part of January. Sort of in the offseason … I picked it up pretty quickly after that and I had a pretty good start to the season and then I started hitting balls again last week after seven weeks,” McIlroy said.

“It’s not necessarily the long game that you’re rusty with. It’s more around the greens. The little intricate shots. The chipping, the putting, the feel. Just getting your feel back. I think standing up and hitting balls on a range is like riding a bike. Once you get a feel of it you make a few swings, you’re right back to where you left off. But it’s the intricacies of playing golf and scoring and chipping and putting. That’s the things that take a little longer to come back to you.”

The match, which takes place at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla., on May 17, will be held without spectators. McIlroy said playing without fans will be part of adapting to “what is the new normal” but shows how important golf can be to the sports world.

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“This is not what we’re used to but this is what we’re going to have to live with. It’s not as if this thing is going to go away overnight,” he said. “I really don’t think this is going to go away until there’s a vaccine, which is probably a year down the line, so life as we know it is going to look a little different up until then.

“But I think it is important that golf shows that you can still get out there and play, follow the proper protocols, follow social distancing guidelines and if we can do that I think it’s wonderful for the game of golf. It shows that we can still go and play and do the right thing and be responsible and be safe.”

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Jimmy Dunne, the president of the Seminole Golf Club, told Gray that the world has to adapt to the crisis. He added that the club plans to follow the coronavirus guidelines.

“We are strictly going to adhere to the county, state guidelines. And Rory raised a good point, golf is a game you can play within the guidelines and for them to be out getting fresh air, getting out of the house and being very responsible to all the COVID-19 restrictions and suggestions is what we’re going to demonstrate during the event,” Dunne said.

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The match will tee off at 2 p.m. ET. Live coverage will take place on NBC, GOLF Channel, NBC Sports, Sky Sports and other PGA Tour partners. The golfers will raise money for the American Nurses Foundation and the CFC Foundation. Farmers Insurance also pledged $1 million to Off Their Plate for every birdie and eagle made during the match.